Majd Darwich moved his family from Syria to Canada in 2016, hoping to find a safe place for his son, who is autistic and non-verbal. But he is now contemplating leaving after his son was Tasered during an interaction with Peel Regional Police a week ago.
“I thought when I came to Canada that the police would protect and help him if he ran away from my house. I never imagined that they would do what they did,” Darwich said in an interview with CP24.com
The 65-year-old father is referring to an incident that occurred a few blocks from their Mississauga home last Friday that saw Peel police use a Taser on his 19-year-old son, which left him injured and traumatized.
Darwich did not find anything amiss that day until he heard the sound of police sirens and cruisers passing by his home. He went to check on his son, who he thought was in his room. Darwich found it empty. Worried, he searched the house, but he could not find him. When he checked the front door, which was usually locked to prevent Abdullah from straying outside, he found it unlocked.
Darwich knew something was wrong. He stepped out and found a police scene 10 houses from their place. So, he got into his car and checked what was happening.
What he saw when he arrived, Darwich says, was something a father shouldn’t see.
His son Abdullah was on the ground, his face bloodied and his hands handcuffed behind his back.
“I felt like I (was going to) have a heart attack,” he recounted.
Darwich said when he looked at his son, he was pleading for help.
“I felt that he wants me to hug him at least because he feels comfortable when I hug him,” he said.
Darwich tried to get closer to his son, but he said police officers did not allow him.
“I couldn’t because they prevented him from touching him. It was very terrible,” he said. “I don’t think any father can stand with this situation.”
Darwich says police told him that his son fell and his injuries were not serious. He would shortly learn that his son Abdullah was Tasered when he saw probes removed from his body by paramedics.
Abdullah was taken to the hospital and was later released to his father.
“It was a terrible situation,” Darwich said, adding that the incident left his son shocked and confused.
CP24 reached out to Peel police about the incident. In a statement, they confirmed that they received a call for a suspicious person “in a state of undress, attempting to enter a vehicle and a house.”
Police said at the time, responding officers didn’t know the identity of the person and their condition.
Officers tried to communicate with the person “who appeared to be in distress,” but the individual did not respond, police said.
“The individual was apprehended and taken to a hospital to receive medical attention and support following the use of a conductive energy weapon (or a Taser),” police said.
They added that the incident is being reviewed.
To understand what led to the incident, Darwich says he returned to the scene a day later and spoke to neighbours about what they saw.
The neighbours, he says, told him that his son Abdullah was only wearing shorts and was playing on a pile of leaves when police arrived. CTV News Toronto has obtained a video which appears to show Abdullah playing with leaves.
Darwich says others corroborated what police said in the statement, saying his son tried to break into a car.
While he thinks his son tried to open a car because he was cold, Darwich says what the police did was still unacceptable.
“They don’t know anything about autism,” he said. “They just deal with anybody in front of them as a criminal, which is very dangerous.”
Darwich says his son is only 170 centimetres tall and believes police could have dealt with him without using a Taser.
He adds that Abdullah is listed in Peel police’s Vulnerable Persons’ Registry. According to the Peel police website, the registry “allows the caregivers and/or parents of vulnerable people to submit vital information that will be used by emergency services during a crisis situation.”
Among the information asked are a photo of the individual and “methods of approach if found.” That’s why Darwich is baffled about why police did not use the registry during the incident. He says he asked the officers who visited the family a few days later why they did not check the registry.
Police told him they could not tell him why.
In another statement, Peel police confirmed Abdullah is in the registry.
“The registry is only effective if that known information is provided to us. For example: If we responded to the individuals address, or the caller provided the individuals name, or simply mentioned that it could be them, then the responding officers would be alerted to the specific vulnerabilities and how to address them. This was not the case in this incident,” police said.
They also confirmed that its Divisional Mobilization Unit (DMU) attended the family’s home “to offer support.” They said the DMU connects people with immediate resources “to improve their quality of life and reduce unnecessary police interactions.”
“Our DMU team has since met with the family and is collaborating with our community partners to ensure they are properly connected,” police said.
A week after the incident, the family is still shaken. Darwich says he has noticed some changes in his son.
Before, Abdullah was friendly around people, but now he is distant and afraid, Darwich says.
“He is very different,” he said. “I hope he will not stay like that.”
As for his next move, Darwich says he is exploring filing a complaint to hold those responsible for the physical and emotional injuries his son sustained.
“I have to raise my voice. I will not leave it like that,” Darwich said.
“This boy is the most important thing to me,” he added. “He needs me and he needs me to protect him.”